Jeb Bush’s GOP debate performance Saturday night (February 13) showed the candidate still had some life in him and could be a contender, even if the pundits have counted him out.
For anyone who has doubts about Jeb Bush’s ability to mount a comeback off his GOP debate performance, just look at how much Donald Trump attacked the former Florida governor throughout the debate. For Bush to have come in so low in Iowa (he came in fifth place behind Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich) and low again in New Hampshire (fourth place behind Trump, Kasich, and Cruz), the billionaire real estate mogul spent an awful lot of time personally attacking and belittling not only Bush, but his brother and other members of the Bush family.
The first line of attack was going after former President George W. Bush, Jeb Bush’s brother, for invading Iraq on the basis of Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass distraction. It turned out the Middle East nation had no such weapons, and Trump laid the deaths of thousands of soldiers at George W. Bush’s feet during the debate. He then attacked Jeb Bush, saying it took the Republican brother of the former president days to clarify his position on the war.
“It took Jeb Bush five days before his people told him what to say, and he ultimately said it was a mistake,” Trump was quoted as saying by CNN.
Trump also went after George W. Bush on national security, noting that the September 11th attacks happened under George W. Bush’s watch.
“The World Trade Center came down when your brother was President,” he said.
And last but not least, Trump undercut Bush by saying former First Lady Barbara Bush (Jeb and George W.’s mother and the wife of former President George H.W. Bush) should be running for the office instead of her son.
“[My] mother was the strongest person I know,” Jeb Bush shot back, along with many other forceful retorts to Trump.
Throughout the South Carolina GOP debate, Bush was on guard against Trump and was forceful with his replies. It is the Jeb Bush that many were likely expecting to hit the campaign trail months ago, though it has failed to materialize until now.
The New York Times took a look at Bush’s stinging rebukes to Trump‘s almost schoolyard-like attacks on the debate stage.
“Mr. Bush bore into Mr. Trump’s knowledge and readiness to confront national security threats, noting that Mr. Trump had made positive remarks about Russia’s role in fighting the Islamic State in Syria.
” ‘It is absolutely ludicrous to suggest that Russia could be a positive partner in this,’ Mr. Bush said.”
In addition to attacking Trump’s ability to protect the United States on the international stage, Bush also took the opportunity to defend not only his mother (as mentioned above), but also defend his father from attacks by Trump.
“I’m sick and tired of him going after my family,” Bush said. “My dad is the greatest man alive, in my mind.”
As the Times noted, South Carolina is a southern state in the heart of the Bible belt. It is a culture Bush knows well, having been governor of Florida and growing up the son of a Texas congressman (who later become CIA director, vice president, and president).
“Mr. Trump’s florid reputation, past support for abortion rights and harsh language — including a vulgarity he used last week about Mr. Cruz — could alienate social conservatives and establishment Republicans in the state, according to Bush advisers. While Mr. Bush has assailed Mr. Trump in the past and described him as all but unqualified for the presidency, the Saturday debate was his most forceful performance of the race.”
What do you think? Was Saturday’s debate the best yet for Bush? And does it breath new life into a campaign many had left for dead just days ago?
[Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images]